Asbestos Exposure in Shipyards

During World War II and the Korean War, the use of asbestos in ship building was widespread. When the dangers of asbestos became well-known in the 1970’s, and people started to understand how this dangerous substance increased the risk of asbestos-related diseases, work began to remove asbestos from ships. What many people don’t know is that the work has yet to be completed, making asbestos exposure in shipyards a lingering problem.

The United States Navy began using asbestos in their vessels long before the start of World War II. As early as 1922, new submarines were required to incorporate asbestos into their construction, and by 1932, the Navy was using 197 million pounds of asbestos annually. In fact, in 1939, asbestos was classified by the U.S. government as a critical material to be stockpiled for future use. At that point every branch of the military was using asbestos.

It makes sense, from a practical standpoint. Asbestos can resist corrosion and withstand high temperatures, so it’s an ideal material for building ships, as well as other applications. By World War II, asbestos was found throughout the ships, in concrete, floor tiles, doors, wall panels, around pipes, in sealants, in boiler cladding, furnace firebricks, and welding materials, as well as in insulation. As strange as it may sound, it was also used in some safety equipment and protective gear.

Decades later, the military recognized the harmful effects of asbestos. Although asbestos can cause mesothelioma, lung cancer, and other diseases, the manufacturing companies that provided it hid this fact from consumers as well as the military. Not until the 1970s was the issue of asbestos safety taken seriously, and that’s when work began to remove it from ships. Because of exposure during previous years, however, the widespread use of asbestos led to an alarming number of mesothelioma cases in shipyard workers and veterans. During World War II, it’s estimated that 4,500,000 people working in naval shipyards were exposed to asbestos. After the war that number dropped to about 200,000 and it’s fluctuated since then.

How many workers are currently at risk of asbestos exposure in shipyards? It’s hard to say. The use of asbestos is limited now, but it’s not entirely banned. In addition to Navy shipyards, there are hundreds of privately owned shipyards, and some of the largest still use asbestos. It’s important to remember, also, that it’s not only the workers who risk asbestos-related diseases. Because asbestos clings to clothing, hair, and skin, shipyard workers can accidentally bring it home, unwittingly exposing their family members to asbestos.

At Vogelzang Law, we understand the serious problems asbestos exposure creates. For over 20 years, we’ve worked as a mesothelioma and asbestos law firm, gaining in the process a wealth of specialized knowledge and resources, along with compassion for our many clients. These are the qualities that allow us to advocate wholeheartedly for our clients, serving them with a unified team and a deep understanding of the difficulties that accompany an asbestos-related diagnosis or a mesothelioma lawsuit. If you’re looking for a mesothelioma lawyer passionate about representing the victims of asbestos exposure and committed to supporting the researchers and organizations fighting to find a cure, call (888) 665-2065 or contact us through our website.